Thursday, December 30, 2010

game preview: Iowa State

Date/Time: December 30, 8:00

TV: Comcast Sports Network

History against the Cyclones: 1-1

Last matchup: ISU 81, UVA 79; 12/6/04

Last game: Seattle 59, UVA 53 (12/23); ISU 104, Chicago State 63 (12/21)

Opposing blogs: Clone Chronicles

KenPom stats:

National rank: UVA #101; ISU #51
Offense rank: UVA #105; ISU #72
Defense rank: UVA #106; ISU #36

Yo. The basketball team, and I, return from Christmas break only to come face to face with a Cyclone. Before the season this looked like one of the likeliest wins of the BCS-team games on the schedule, but Fred Hoiberg has his team doing very well and poised to greatly exceed the last-place expectations foisted upon them. Combined with UVA's pre-break loss to Seattle, this is no longer a game in which UVA should be considered the clear favorite. The good news is that Mike Scott should be much healthier than he was against Seattle and Will Sherrill will make his return, so Tony Bennett will once again have a full frontcourt to work with.


- Find the right combination. A sizable portion of Iowa State's roster is comprised of transfers waiting their turn, so as a result they run very thin. But unlike Virginia Tech which also uses a rotation of only about seven players, all types are represented. Diante Garrett is a real playmaker who can create for himself and his teammates. Jamie Vanderbeken is a true post-up center at 6'11". Scott Christopherson is hitting on more than 50% of his 3's. Jake Anderson is a quick guard with a nose for loose balls and long rebounds. It goes on; the point is that ISU has a group of players that has every skill you'd want. But those will be the players on the court; if Christopherson is having an off-night, or if Jontel Evans proves able to harass Garrett into some turnovers, or if Melvin Ejim can't handle Sherrill's versatility, Hoiberg doesn't have other options to go to. UVA has a deeper bench - Tony Bennett's challenge tonight is to tinker and find the right combination of players to tilt the matchups in our favor.

- Hit some shots please. Please.

- Atmosphere. Unfortunately it's still winter break. But, as with Oregon, ISU is getting their first true road test of the season. They've yet to play a game outside the state of Iowa; the Cyclones' only two road games were a loss at NIU and a win over Iowa. An early lead would go a long way toward some atmosphere at the JPJA and perhaps rattle a few of ISU's younger players.

- Keep Diante Garrett outside. Garrett can hit everything consistently but three-pointers - he's a little weak there but he likes shooting them anyway. With 17.2 points and 6 assists per game, Garrett creates about 40% of ISU's offense on his own. The odds for UVA increase significantly if Garrett is forced by his defenders - who will probably be Jontel Evans and Mu Farrakhan for the most part - to take his shots and make his passes from outside the arc.


- Three-point barrage. ISU likes shooting 'em, and UVA gives 'em up. Even Vanderbeken, the 6'11" galoot, can hit them - in fact, he's something of a matchup nightmare since he's the team's second-best three-point shooter. If he and Christopherson start knocking them down it'll be a very long night.

- Individual matchups. It's likely that, one-on-one, ISU will win the matchups battle. Garrett is the best player on the court. UVA has no individual answer for Vanderbeken. And so on. If UVA allows the game to be decided by individual matchups, doesn't trap wisely on defense, and doesn't move without the ball on offense (thus forcing the man with the ball to beat his man one-on-one), it's likely to be a lost cause. If UVA is to win this game, it'll have to be with a huge assist from the Bennett's system and X's and O's.


ISU has been impressive in the early going, suffering only a couple losses, and close ones to decent teams at that. They've destroyed the teams they should destroy and they've racked up impressive stats along the way. Very metrics-friendly season so far. Despite that, they've struggled in their games against upper-level teams and their strength of schedule is piss-poor. They lost at home to California and came close to losing to Iowa and believe me when I say Iowa sucks rather fiercely. The respective seasons of the two teams so far have swung the pendulum of expectations from UVA to ISU, but playing the game on our home court and the thinness of ISU's rotation conspire to make this game a pure coin-flip. This one will come down to the brass tacks of shooting and execution, and the team that does them better will win.

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